I tend to agree with John Campbell, a veteran U.S. diplomat who summarized during a VOA’s Press Conference in 2014 in his opinion what seems to ail South Sudan:
“Very often, behind the ethnic conflict, you will find various political figures that seek to exploit ethnic identities in order to advance their own particular political agenda. And, I think there is at least some of that underway now in South Sudan.”
And I tend to agree that both President Kiir and the immediate Vice president Riek Machar must sacrifice their own individual agendas and collectively forge a path of unity for the country so that prosperity can finally be realized in South Sudan.
When South Sudan became the world’s youngest Nation in July 2011, there was an avalanche pomp and color. A rainbow of hope covered the nation as people who had never believed in the possibility of Independence finally lived to see it.
In 2013 and despite independence, the country went to one of the worst civil wars. It led to the death of tens of thousands, over two million people displaced and an economy in ruins.
When the peace deal between President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar was signed in August 2015 in Juba, there was a glimmer of hope.
I recently received the news about the intensified fighting that had erupted in Juba and my heart broke instantly. When calm was restored, I was jubilated. But before we even butt our eyelids, there is yet another conflict between Kiir and Machar that has claimed around 300 lives according to media reports.
Humans are naturally born selfish, greedy and aggressive. For how long will the innocent South Sudan citizens be maimed and displaced? South Sudan leaders must not wait for the world to urge them to unite. Because the destiny of the nation lies squarely on the laps of its leaders. Yes, there are many reasons to disagree. There are numerous opportunities to renege on the promises which have been made before. But leaders must always think of the bigger picture.
South Sudan has an immense potential that if tapped can catapult them to be one of the leading economic powerhouses in the world. That will, however, take a major sacrifice from the leaders so that the dreams of the nation aren’t extinguished at the altar of selfish reasons.
Leaders must be accountable to the constitution and the rule of law. Their hearts must be drawn towards a servant leadership and restoring the sanctity of life which is being systematically savored by the constant wars.
The young people of Juba must not allow themselves to divide against party lines with ethnic undertones. Their dreams can only thrive in an environment where peace is in abundance. I hope they realize before it is too late that everyone loses in the struggle for power. Just because a leader from my ethnic background is in power, it does not mean that I will necessarily benefit from it.
For the sake of the widows, children, the disabled and special interest groups, we all must demand a permanent end to hostilities and a culture where a small disagreement leads to the death of innocent people. We must not just continue to pray for South Sudan. Prayer works but it shouldn’t be a substitute for action. Let the leaders rise above partisan and egotistical needs so that they can sacrificially serve their people.
Political uncertainty could frustrate and thwart the growth of the economy as investors shy away from putting money in the country. Because Foreign Direct Investment is a key driver of the economy, the two leaders must bend over backward and help augment the sustained moment that is so vital for sustained growth. Failure to do that, there might be a negative message being sent from Juba that the leaders are unafraid to stick to the deal which will dramatically change the fortunes of their people. It shows a lack of confidence in the incumbent’s ability to shepherd the country in the future where each citizen will have the ability to live a decent life with proper amenities, basic needs met and a guaranteed secure future.
Meanwhile, Taban Deng has been sworn in as the new vice president. Is this appointment consistent with the peace deal that was signed earlier? I fear that this new appointment could send this country of promise back to the days of war.
But my hope for South Sudan is that peace will prevail. Prosperity will follow and the world will see and marvel at the beauty of the place. I am glad that Kenya Airways resumed flights to the capital of Juba. This goes to demonstrate the type of support we as Kenyan’s are willing to give the South Sudanese people. The ultimate achievement will, however, be this; when leaders put aside their selfish agenda and focus on building a nation where dreams and ambitions can thrive in.